Goldie manuevered the spaceship carefully.  She was aiming for a specific landing spot, near some excitingly human-looking structures.  Too close and she would destroy them before she got a chance to explore.  Too far and she would have to walk for hours and not have time to explore.  As she descended towards the planet the clouds parted around her, revealing the ground below.

It looked just like a scene from Old Earth, after they’d cleared out the northern continents and turned them into nature reserves.  The savannah spread into the distance, where it blended into a mountain range.  In the other direction a lake glinted in the sunshine.  Long grass undulated in a gentle breeze, giving the impression of movement to the ground.  It was perfect.

She slid lower, and pulled up the structures on the viewscreen.  The  nearest of them was like something out of an old movie – ahaybarn she thought it was called.  It was large – large enough to fit maybe two small houses in, with an opening on one end.

“I’ll park near there,” she thought.  “Have to be careful not to get too close, though, I don’t know what that thing is made of.”

She aimed towards her chosen spot and gently set the craft down.  Grinning happily at the thought of exploring something new, she quickly suited up and hopped into the airlock.  The bot followed on behind.

The first thing she noticed when she left the airlock was the ground.  It was soft and squelchy, every footstep she took filling with a thin layer of water as soon as she moved on.  Still, it wasn’t too bad.  She set off for the buildings.

The sun was gentle on her back, barely felt through the space suit, and the bobbing grass lulled her with its sameness.  It felt like she walked for hours and didn’t get anywhere, but when she checked her chrono she discovered it had only been twenty minutes.

The nearest of the buildings was set at the top of a slight rise.  As she climbed to it the ground changed from soft earth to hard rock, and the bobbing waving grasses gave way to shorter fronds of something that looked like a cross between grass and moss.  She stopped and took a sample.

The building itself was a disappointment.  As soon as she got close to it, she realised that it was only a shell.  The massive structure appeared to have been built and then left empty.  The ground inside was covered in the same short grass as the rest of the hill, but the walls were bare rock.  There was no sign, apart from the building itself, that there had ever been any intelligent life here.

She looked around a little, and explored the rest of the structures – all different shapes, but all empty.  Eventually she decided to give it up as a lost cause and head back to the ship.

The trip back was as soporific as the trip there, but a growing unease was making itself known in the back of her mind.  The ship looked… wrong.  She couldn’t put her finger on it, but there was something not quite right about the shape, or the placement, or… She quickened her pace.


She stopped and stared at her spaceship.  Or rather, the top of her spaceship.  The entire thing had sunk a good six feet into the ground.  She rushed around to the airlock.  The top foot of it was visible – not enough to squeeze through in her suit, and the bot definitely wouldn’t make it.  She would have to dig it out before she could get inside and see about moving the ship.

The bot was carrying supplies, as it had for the past few trips.  She was grateful that she had thought to put a variety of pieces of equipment in its pack.  She fished out a spade and began to dig.

Almost immediately she encountered problems.  Every time she took a chunk of earth out the hole immediately filled with water.  She was digging blind, creating a pond next to her airlock.

It took a long while, but eventually she had dug down far enough to reach the controls.  She opened the door and watched as a rush of water filled the airlock.  She lowered the bot into the hole – it wasn’t great at climbing or jumping – and then slid in herself.  For a moment she was floating in the water, before she kicked the close button and started the airlock cycling.  It was just as good at expelling water as it was at clearing out the air, and soon she was standing on the floor watching the last of the water pumped out of the airlock.

The inner door opened, and she gratefully stripped off her soaking spacesuit.  They were really not designed for use underwater.

Now, to get out of here before the ship sank entirely under the earth.

She set the bot off cleaning up the mess with the spacesuit, and sat herself down at the controls.  She entered the commands for a vertical take off.  The engines strained but the ship did not seem to be moving.

Fighting down the rising panic, she thought about other things she could try.  She set the thrusters to go forwards and backwards, and began rocking the ship gently.  If she could make the hole bigger, perhaps she would be able to take off.

It took long minutes of effort, first straining forwards, then backwards, slowly increasing the force until finally she felt the ship move.  She wriggled it a few more times to be sure and then aimed for the sky.  And the ship soared.  She was free!